Newsletter May 4, 2023









Governor Inslee calls special session for Legislature to address drug possession

Washington State lawmakers will have a second chance to come up with a new, statewide approach to drug possession. Governor Jay Inslee announced a 30-day special session of the Legislature that will start on May 16, allowing lawmakers to replace a stopgap measure that expires on July 1. Lawmakers have yet to reach a deal, but state Senate and House leaders will continue working towards a resolution that can gain majority support.

During the special session, lawmakers will address the same policy questions left unanswered during the regular session that ended last month. This includes whether to maintain a criminal penalty for drug possession and, if so, at what level, with what alternatives to prosecution and incarceration. The political questions remain the same, including how to get progressive and centrist Democrats to back the same proposal or bring together a coalition between centrist Democrats and Republicans.

If the Legislature does not adopt a new measure before July 1, each city and county will have to handle drug possession in its own way, resulting in “a confusing patchwork of policies, treatment options, and penalties,” according to a press release from Inslee’s office.

Drug possession was a felony until 2021, when the state Supreme Court struck down the law. In a case called State v. Blake, the court decided that the law was unconstitutional because it included people who did not realize they were carrying drugs. The 2021 approach classified intentional drug possession as a misdemeanor and required police to refer people to services twice before jail.

While the upcoming special session offers a chance for lawmakers to agree on a new statewide drug possession law, there are still significant challenges. The hope is that the special session will produce a bipartisan bill that can pass both chambers and provide a balanced policy that combines accountability and treatment.

AG Ferguson makes two major announcements

Attorney General Bob Ferguson has shared two major announcements in the past two weeks—one regarding the creation of an internal Organized Retail Crime Unit and the other concerning his intention to run for governor in 2024.

Last week, Ferguson declared that the Legislature fully funded his request for a centralized Organized Retail Crime Unit within the Attorney General’s Office. This 10-member unit will consist of investigators, prosecutors, and a data analyst and will focus on coordinating, investigating, and prosecuting multi-jurisdictional retail crime statewide.

The Organized Retail Crime Unit will collaborate with Ferguson’s Organized Retail Crimes Task Force, established in 2022, which includes representatives from state, local, and federal law enforcement, small and large businesses, and retail workers. The funding will begin on July 1, enabling the Task Force to continue its efforts.

Various stakeholders, including Bellevue Police Chief Wendell Shirley, Washington Retail Association President and CEO Renée Sunde, United Food and Commercial Workers 3000 President Faye Guenther, and Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly, have expressed their support for the creation of the Organized Retail Crime Unit. They acknowledge the importance of a coordinated, statewide approach in addressing this growing issue, which affects public safety, the retail industry, and workers across Washington.

In another significant development this week, Ferguson announced his decision to run for Washington State Governor in 2024. He has launched an exploratory committee and plans to spend the next few weeks traveling across Washington, meeting with tribal governments, business leaders, and elected officials, and attending public appearances and house parties. Ferguson, a Democrat, will begin his trip in Eastern Washington. Ferguson’s announcement came just one day after current Governor Jay Inslee declared he would not seek a fourth term.

During his tenure as Attorney General, which began in 2013, Ferguson has taken on several high-profile lawsuits. Among those were cases against the three largest opioid distributors—McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp.—for their negligence in the opioid epidemic. In 2022, a resolution in the case required the distributors to pay Washington state $518 million.

March inflation indicator experiences another increase

New federal inflation statistics reveal that inflation remains high even after a series of Federal Reserve Rate increases. The Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) index, a leading inflation indicator for the Federal Reserve, reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, experienced a 0.3% rise in March.

Compared to March of the previous year, the PCE price index saw a 4.2% increase, with a 1.6% increase in goods prices, a 5.5% increase in service prices, an 8.0% increase in food prices, and a 9.8% decrease in energy prices. The PCE price index, excluding food and energy, rose 4.6% from a year ago.

Although inflation has slowed from its peak during the Biden administration, economists point out that it remains high despite the Federal Reserve’s measures. Economist Peter Schiff tweeted that the continuous upticks in the core PCE provide further proof that the Fed’s rate hikes are insufficient to bring inflation back to 2% and, without significant reductions in government spending, may contribute to rising consumer prices.

Seattle City Attorney and Councilmembers move to ban public drug use

Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison and Councilmembers Sara Nelson and Alex Pedersen have recently proposed a bill prohibiting drug use in public spaces such as parks, sidewalks, and bus stops. This proposal comes as the Washington legislature has adjourned without creating a new law to replace the expiring legislation that currently prohibits drug possession—set to lapse on July 1.

The proposed bill would grant Seattle Police the authority to intervene and halt individuals consuming dangerous substances like fentanyl and meth in public spaces. Doing so would equip law enforcement with an essential tool to restore order and safety in public areas while supporting those most vulnerable to the dangers of overdosing.

The legislation’s supporters emphasize the importance of public engagement and awareness, urging citizens to review the bill closely. The city’s official website offers further information on the proposed legislation, allowing residents to stay informed and engaged in the legislative process.

This proposal addresses the issue locally in light of the ongoing drug crisis affecting communities nationwide. By empowering law enforcement to take proactive measures and supporting those at risk of overdosing, Seattle aims to create a safer environment for its residents and visitors. With public awareness and involvement, the proposed bill can positively impact the community and help mitigate the dangers associated with drug use in public spaces.

Amazon workers return to Seattle offices after three years of remote work

On Monday of this week, Amazon workers returned to the office in downtown Seattle, marking the first official day back in the office after three years of working remotely. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy announced the move to in-person work in February, stating the company can’t operate at its full potential without workers returning to the office. Employees must be at work in person at least three days a week.

Businesses in downtown Seattle are excited about the increase in foot traffic, and the Downtown Seattle Association expects most workers to come into the city on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The Downtown Seattle Association says more people mean more opportunities for businesses, and the city has been seeing a steady increase in worker traffic this year.

In related news, Amazon is planning to transfer a total of 2,000 employees from their Seattle offices to two new downtown Bellevue towers by the end of 2023, according to a recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal. This move is expected to boost Amazon's headcount in Bellevue to over 12,000 once the towers are up and running.

Amazon currently employs more than 55,000 people in Seattle, while Bellevue's workforce already surpassed 10,000 last year.

Credit card fees could cost consumers nearly $800 million for Mother’s Day gifts

The Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) warns that rising swipe fees charged by big banks and credit card networks for processing transactions may cost consumers nearly $800 million this Mother’s Day.

“Swipe fees drive up prices on everything from greeting cards and flowers to dining out and jewelry, especially since they compound the impact of inflation,” said MPC Executive Committee member Doug Kantor. He urged Congress to pass the Credit Card Competition Act, which would introduce competition to the payments market.

The National Retail Federation’s annual survey shows consumers plan to spend an average of $274 per person for Mother’s Day, totaling $35.7 billion. MPC estimates that $6.14 per shopper will go to banks and card networks instead of merchants when customers pay by credit card, based on a 2.24% average swipe fee for Visa and Mastercard.

If all Mother’s Day purchases were made with credit cards, swipe fees would account for $799.7 million of the total. However, the actual amount is challenging to calculate since purchases are split between credit cards, debit cards with lower swipe fees, and cash. Still, cash represented only 19% of purchases in 2021, and its usage continues to decline.

Credit and debit card swipe fees have more than doubled over the past decade, with a 17% increase last year alone, reaching a record $160.7 billion. The Credit Card Competition Act, pushed by Senators Richard Durbin and Roger Marshall, would require banks with over $100 billion in assets to process credit cards over at least two unaffiliated networks, fostering competition and potentially saving businesses and customers at least $11 billion a year.

From left: Robert B. Haase, WR Director of Communications, John McDonagh, Greater Vancouver Chamber President, Mark Johnson, WR V.P. of Policy & Government Affairs, Robert Nelson, President of the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association (WAORCA).

Vancouver Chamber hosts business safety forum

The Greater Vancouver Chamber members convened at Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver last week, where business owners from Clark County gathered to discuss the pressing issue of crime affecting their companies. President and CEO of the Chamber, John McDonagh, led the event, which kicked off with a digital survey. The survey revealed that out of 60 attendees’ responses, 41 had experienced vandalism at their businesses, yet only 27 had reported it.

To address this issue, the Chamber organized two panels of speakers who provided valuable insights on making insurance claims, reporting crimes, and preventing crime before it happens. They highlighted the importance of reporting crimes to law enforcement agencies, as resources are allocated based on this metric.

Mark Johnson, WR Vice President of Policy & Government Affairs, spoke about how Washington’s pursuit law restrictions have affected local law enforcement’s ability to enforce the law. “Of the five bills before the legislature to fix police pursuit issues, only one was passed, but it was weakened by the exclusion of property crimes, such as retail theft and carjacking.” “Thieves can drive off with stolen goods while police officers can only watch,” Johnson said.

Responding to questions about WR’s Guide to Navigating Public Safety & Retail Theft, Robert Haase, WR Director of Communications, shared how retailers can make changes to stores to deter and disincentivize thefts and break-ins.

Other suggestions included installing concrete balusters to prevent smash-and-grab thefts and organizing stores to deter shoplifting.

Speakers noted that retail theft is not limited to Vancouver or the Portland metro area, as organized crime groups continue to target businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. Rachel Codiroli, Business Development Manager at Securitas, urged business owners to evaluate their security measures and adopt a proactive approach to protect their establishments.

Spokane coalition supports Safe Open Spaces ordinance

A coalition of business leaders in Spokane is backing the “Safe Open Spaces” ordinance to safeguard employees and customers from accidental needle pokes and unintended drug exposure. These crucial amendments will also help restore public spaces for all residents, as they have been overtaken by individuals consuming drugs.

The Spokane City Council is set to discuss the “Safe Open Spaces” ordinance on Monday. The proposal, put forward by Mayor Woodward and supported by Councilmembers Cathcart and Bingle, seeks to make loitering for the purpose of using drugs unlawful. As the Legislature has failed to reinstate statewide drug possession laws and other communities such as Marysville, Lakewood, Kent, and Bellingham have already implemented similar policies, it is critical that Spokane does not lag behind.

The coalition’s message to the City Council is that the ordinance would give officers the authority to seize drugs and paraphernalia and arrest individuals openly using drugs in public. Ensuring the ordinance includes strong criminal penalties is essential to establishing an accountable strategy for connecting those struggling on the streets with treatment and cracking down on predatory dealers who exploit them.

Join in support here

Mother’s Day spending expected to reach record high of $35.7 billion

According to a recent survey, consumers are predicted to spend $35.7 billion on Mother’s Day this year—nearly $4 billion more than last year’s record high of $31.7 billion. The survey found that 84% of U.S. adults are planning to celebrate the holiday. The average expected spending per person is $274.02, which is the highest in the history of the survey and up from the previous record high of $245.76 in 2022.

According to the survey, expected spending is up across all gift categories, with gifts of jewelry, electronics, and apparel being the primary drivers of growth this year.

Consumers aged between 35-44 are expected to spend an average of $382.26 on Mother’s Day, making them the top spenders. The most popular gifts include flowers (74%), greeting cards (74%), and special outings such as dinner or brunch (60%). Consumers are expected to spend $7.8 billion on jewelry, $5.6 billion on special outings, and $4 billion on electronics.

Phil Rist, the Executive Vice President of Strategy at Prosper, stated that while most consumers shopped online last year for the perfect Mother’s Day gift, many people are turning to department stores as a shopping destination this year. Nearly one-third of those celebrating Mother’s Day are planning to give a gift of experience. Respondents said finding unique or different items (47%) and items that create special memories (42%) are the most important factors in purchasing a Mother’s Day gift.

Brand boycotts are declining as inflation pressures shoppers

By Claire Tassin

Twenty-one percent of consumers say they’ve boycotted a brand for political reasons, a 10-percentage point drop from 2021. Inflation-driven economic pressures are primarily responsible for this shift, as consumers now have less flexibility in their budgets to shop according to their values.

Messaging about environmental, social, and governance practices is less relevant to shoppers when their budgets are squeezed, but consumers will still punish brands that cross ethical lines.

2020 saw many brands speaking out in support of racial justice protests after George Floyd’s murder. At the same time, consumers were paying attention to how brands were treating their employees amid pandemic lockdowns. In 2021, shoppers were generally supportive of brands speaking out on social and political issues. Now, many of those same brands are keeping silent after tragedies and court decisions. So are consumers: In 2023, fewer shoppers are aligning their spending with brands that share their values.

The disruption of pandemic lockdowns meant that all eyes were on the broad issues impacting most Americans. Since then, people’s lives have largely returned to normal, with all the distractions that come with it. Economic pressure from inflation also means consumers can’t necessarily afford to shop from all the brands they’d like to support or might abandon a preferred product for one that’s more expensive if their go-to goes against their beliefs.

Read the entire article at

Returnable retail bag trial launches at CVS Health, Target stores

The Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag has initiated a pilot program to test a returnable retail bag deposit model in an effort to reduce single-use plastic bag waste. CVS Health and Target stores in New Jersey, where a plastic bag ban was implemented last year, offer customers the option to buy a reusable bag for $1 at checkout and receive a refund when returning the bag.

Reusable bags will be sold until July 17, while kiosks for returns and deposits will remain operational until mid-August. The consortium, managed by Closed Loop Partners, will utilize insights from the pilot to refine the returnable bag system. As numerous states are banning single-use plastic bags or imposing per-bag fees, reusable bags have become a popular alternative.

The pilot aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a returnable bag system and customer participation levels. Accessibility and convenience are central to this model, which offers in-store bag borrowing and returning options. The deposit system could also benefit those who don’t want to accumulate reusable bags at home.

The consortium is collaborating with 99 Bridges for technology and Returnity for bag collection, washing, and redistribution. Customers participate by scanning a bag’s QR code at a touchscreen kiosk, returning the bag, and instantly receiving $1 in cash for each returned bag. Data collected through QR codes will be analyzed to understand customer behavior and identify potential points of friction.

Cash rewards are provided instantly to incentivize returns, removing any potential friction from the process. The reusable bags are made from polypropylene, which is lightweight, durable, and can be washed and reused up to 125 times without deterioration.

As part of the consortium’s largest returnable bag piloting initiative, a bring-your-own-bag pilot is launching with participating retailers, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dollar General, The Kroger Co., TJX, and Ulta Beauty. Both pilots will be implemented in over 150 retail stores nationwide.

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Is your situational awareness turned on?

We often fall into the trap of taking routine tasks for granted and performing them on autopilot rather than with fully engaged minds. This tendency can lead to a lack of situational awareness and the potential for mistakes resulting in catastrophic consequences.

A typical example could be driving on a familiar route and arriving at the destination without fully remembering the journey. Another situation could be using a tool at work without mentally walking through each safety step before starting the task. Do we let our minds drift off thinking about something else? Situational awareness is crucial to prevent such lapses, and employers can help employees maintain it.

One way to improve situational awareness is to challenge the brain to engage with the task actively. By consciously observing the environment, potential hazards, and the behavior of others, we can maintain situational awareness. However, the brain tends to validate what we want to see, so it is essential to question assumptions and look for signs that contradict them.

External and internal sources of stress can also impact situational awareness. Employers can help by establishing open lines of communication and creating a supportive workplace culture. Checking in with employees regularly, being aware of their circumstances outside of work, and offering assistance resources can also help.

Maintaining situational awareness is critical to preventing mistakes that can have lasting consequences. We can keep focus and attention on the task at hand by actively engaging the brain, questioning assumptions, and managing distracting stressors. Employers can also play a crucial role in promoting a supportive workplace culture that encourages communication and offers resources to control stressors.

Our safety team is available to help members elevate their safety practices from simply meeting requirements to implementing quality safety measures. Contact us at to learn more.

WR diversity statement

WR is committed to the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. We strive to create a safe, welcoming environment in which these principles can thrive.

We value all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, identity, sexual orientation, nationality, or disability, and that is the foundation of our commitment to those we serve.

Washington Retail Staff

Renée Sunde




Rose Gundersen

VP of Operations

& Retail Services



Mark Johnson

Senior VP of Policy & Govt. Affairs



Robert B. Haase

Director of




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